Saturday, April 14, 2007

Insect Warfare - Endless Execution Through Violent Restitution

Insect Warfare
Endless Execution Through Violent Restitution
625 Thrashcore

It’s always cause for celebration when the pride and joy of Gulf Coast grind, Insect Warfare, release a new record. In addition to the new EP, the fine gents in Insect Warfare have also taken this opportunity to release their music on the compact disc format for the first time. So now all you non-kvlt, non-turntable-having types out there have no excuse.

The Endless Execution CD has both the Endless Execution and the “At War with Grindcore” EPs, their tracks from the Hatred Surge split and the Gulf Coast Massacre compilation, their 2004 demo and a Celtic Frost cover. It’s a common practice for new bands to release discography CDs every couple of years just to have all of their material available. What’s not common is the unbridled brutality that Insect Warfare delivers with every song.

The new EP features the same blast-heavy, old-school grindcore attack that we’ve all come to know and love from these guys. However, Endless Execution differs from their past works in two distinct ways. One is the production, which makes this EP the best sounding of all their material so far. The other is a new-found death metal influence. I’m not speaking of the mosh-slam-death that’s so prevalent in the state these days. No, I mean a tip of the hat to bands such as Entombed and Suffocation; those bands that did heavy correctly.

Here's Insect Warfare live at the UG Speed Trials fest in San Fransisco, recorded March 2007.


Flawless Victory - Nuestra Herencia

Flawless Victory
Nuestra Herencia

Straight out of Laredo, Texas comes Flawless Victory. This band plays metal-tinged hardcore that’s reminiscent of Pantera and the bands that picked up where Pantera left off, like A Perfect Murder and newer Throwdown. It’s good to see a Texas band keeping the Pantera sound alive and keeping it fresh at the same time.

The five-song EP “Neustra Herencia” is filled with bone-crushing breakdowns that will set it off in any pit. The hardcore aspects of their sound are in the vein of such luminaries as Madball and Terror.

Some Swedish-style riffing can be found on “Neustra Herencia”, but not enough to warrant the dreaded metalcore tag. It’s just proof that Flawless Victory’s game is tight. They are one of the few new bands that can effortlessly float between styles and create their own sound. Nothing sounds forced, which is something that can’t be said for many of their peers.

Flawless Victory keeps it real by singing the song “Neustra Herencia” is Spanish. Metal and hardcore are an international community and Flawless Victory don’t let anyone forget that.

“Nuestra Herencia” is a great recording captured at Houston’s Origin Sounds. This studio is fast becoming to Texas what Trax East is to the NYC area.

Contact Flawless Victory at:

Here's Flawless Victory's video tour diary.


Mastodon - Blood Mountain

Blood Mountain

Here it is, the new Mastodon record. The dreaded, sell-out major label debut. More on that later. Ethics aside, the music rocks.

The Mastodon style, which fully took shape on the “Remission” album, has been perfected on “Blood Mountain”. Their order-from-chaos guitar noodling, Thin Lizzy-meets-Metallica riffs, dueling vocalists, fearless rhythm section, and adventurous lyrics are all represented here.

Long-time Mastodon collaborator Matt Bayles has produced their best sounding album to date. “Blood Mountain” has all the complexity of Tool (more actually), but with the heaviness of classic Metallica. The guitar tones are godly and Troy Sanders’ bass is actually audible this time.

Brann Dailor has slightly toned down his manic drumming with positive results. By not gravity-rolling every piece on his kit simultaneously, as he has shamelessly on past records, the percussion on “Blood Mountain” is more powerful and has room to breathe. As a result, the sparse, spastic mashing of his drum set is used to greater effect.

Mastodon is fast proving that they can out-play any band on the planet. The two extended, instrumental portions of “Capillarian Crest” seem otherworldly. Can humans really play this well? It’s not all progressive indulgence on this album. “Hand of Stone” cranks up the Motorhead quotient.

The use of guest vocalists on “Blood Mountain” is not employed in the hip-hop sense, so as to raise the record’s profile. Instead, the singers (Scott Kelly of Neurosis, Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, and Cedric Bixlar-Zavala of The Mars Volta) are all like-minded creators that share Mastodon’s sensibilities.

For all the hype this year about retro-metal jam bands, Mastodon schools them all by simply playing their own style. Other acts like The Sword, Early Man and Priestess can’t hold a candle to tunes like “Bladecatcher”.

It’s weird to see a Reprise logo on the CD case. If you’re reading this, you hopefully know on which side of the major label debate to be. If you don’t want to support Warner Brothers, then buy the vinyl from Relapse. If Relapse has pissed you off lately, then burn it. Just don’t discount the music on “Blood Mountain” because MASTODON signed with a big corporation. The record is good and they’re the most interesting major label act since MR. BUNGLE.

I, too, wish that they had stayed independent, but here’s the reality of the situation. Mastodon made a great record, even if you don’t like their ethics.

UPDATE: I got to see Mastodon play at SXSW in Austin last month. It was my first time seeing them play the new stuff. It was, without a doubt, the best Mastodon show I'd ever seen. They're still the most interesting major label band and even MTV is now playing the "Colony of Birchmen" video. The Blood Mountain saga isn't over yet. Here's what you missed:

Employer, Employee - Mother Spain and the Wayfaring Myth

Employer, Employee
Mother Spain and the Wayfaring Myth

For a few glorious years in the early 2000s, the late, great Employer, Employee was the best band in Austin and maybe the whole state. They were known best for their live shows, which could only be described as spectacles, and their hard-to-find, full-length album SIC[SIC], released on Robotic Empire Records in 2001. That said, the Mother Spain 7” is probably their best release.

For those that don’t know, Employer, Employee played Rorschach-style hardcore with traces of math metal reminiscent of the Dillinger Escape Plan. Of course, it’s not that simple.

Employer, Employee followed in the tradition of unusual Texas hardcore bands like the Butthole Surfers and The Hates. The members of Employer, Employee weren’t bizarre people, but their music was certainly unpredictable.

For one thing, EMPLOYER, EMPLOYEE was intense. Even on vinyl, as opposed to the live setting, their music stimulates the adrenal gland. For another, they were fearless and original. String quartet? Check. Frightening spoken-word pieces? Check. Complex drum rhythms? Check. Murderous riffing? You know it.

“Mother Spain and the Wayfaring Myth” can’t be considered anything other than a classic. The members’ subsequent bands (Asp and Sea of Thousand) were outstanding, but it’s Employer, Employee that will stand the test of time.

If you weren’t there, then seek out this important band in the history of Texas hardcore. If you were there, it never hurts to get reacquainted with an old friend.

This band is so kvlt that no decent pictures or video was available!

Soilent Green - Pussysoul

Soilent Green

If you’re an old-school KPFT listener, then you’ll likely remember the song “Slapfuck” as a regional hit which received heavy airplay on the Sweet Nightmares and Big Jesus radio shows. “Slapfuck” is also the prototypical example of Soilent Green’s psychotic Sabbath-meets-Discharge death/sludge/grind.

Before they became the long-time Relapse Records staple they are today, Soilent Green crawled out of the New Orleans scene. Along side EYEHATEGOD, Acid Bath, Crowbar, and many others, Soilent Green helped turn heavy music on its ear back in the 90s.

“Pussysoul”, their debut full-length on the long-defunct Dwell Records, laid the foundation for all Soilent Green music to come. Grindcore blasts, ripping death metal, D-beats, and thick as molasses sludge riffs all beating the Christ out of each other and causing irreparable hearing damage in the process.

With all due respect to guitarist Brian Williams (also of EYEHATEGOD), the most dynamic and innovative member of the band is vocalist Ben Falgoust. He can do what many other extreme music singers are incapable of doing: three drastically different vocal styles. Plus, he can seamlessly switch between them. Falgoust blends death grunts, tortured screams, and creepy spoken-word passages into a tapestry of terror, usually all in the same song.

A common complaint with “Pussysoul” has been the record’s production. While it’s certainly not the best, the muddled production of “Pussysoul” gives the album character. The fast parts have a grim feeling, the slow parts are given a sense of punch-drunk clarity, and the heavy parts are immoveable.

Throughout the years, Soilent Green has suffered more tragedies and setbacks than any band should. From van accidents to ex-members passing away, they’ve persevered and they deserve every bit of their success.

In closing, let’s not forget original members Scott Williams and Glen Rambo, both of whom are no longer with us.

Here's a clip of Soilent Green playing "Mad Scientist", recorded in 1989 with original vocalist Glenn Rambo. Rambo died during Hurricane Katrina.


Cattle Decapitation - Humanure

Cattle Decapitation
Deep Six/Metal Blade

Cattle Decapitation plays grindcore that’s vegan and animal rights-minded, like Carcass. Unlike Carcass, no harmonizers, Pro Tools-tinkering, or any other effects are used by Travis Ryan on his vocals. As he phrases it in the album credits, “all vocals are 100% certified organic.”

Cattle Decapitation are not trying to reinvent the wheel. The band’s sound can be described as a half-and-half mixture of Florida death metal and English grind. “Humanure” best exemplifies this in the relentless death/grind assault of “Bukkake Tsunami”, where the band effortlessly switches between riffs without ever loosing momentum.

Guitarist Josh Elmore isn’t afraid to throw down a blistering lead and isn’t afraid to show that he’s a talented player. This is refreshing, especially in a style of music where many musicians don’t play up to their potential.

Similarly, the bass is an often over-looked instrument in grindcore, with many bands forsaking it altogether. On this record, Troy Oftedal holds down the low-end and forms, with drummer Michael Laughlin, one of the tightest rhythm sections going today.

The three-sided vinyl, a joint release between Metal Blade and underground stalwart Deep Six Records, features outstanding packaging with a gatefold cover, ferocious artwork, and two different colors for the two LPs. The entire third side of the album is the noise masterpiece “Men before Swine” which features disturbing audio clips of animals being slaughtered, courtesy of PETA.

Musically speaking, it would be easy to compare Cattle Decapitation to The Berzerker, but The Berzerker relies too heavily on programming and technology tricks. Cattle Decapitation doesn’t use such tactics, yet the band emerges with a similar sound. It’s just further proof that, while Cattle Decapitation may not be doing anything new, they’re doing it better than virtually everyone.

Here's the promo video for "Reduced to Paste" off of the "Humanure" album.

Deadbodieseverywhere - S/T


On their self-titled LP, San Francisco’s DeadBodiesEverywhere play grindcore that’s heavily influenced by the West Coast power violence sound. The band also uses samples in the same effective manner as EyeHateGod and Buzz Ov-en.

Is it possible for a grind band to sound more furious when they’re playing slow than when they’re playing fast? Yes, and DBE accomplishes this on the songs “Punch the Clock” and “Sloth.” Don’t worry. The grind-hate is here, especially on songs like “Action Packer”.

There’s nothing remarkable about the individual performances on the album, but together, they create an unstoppable grind/sludge force. This is exactly what great bands do. Highly recommended for fans of Lack of Interest, No Less, Despise You, and Infest. Good luck finding a copy of this record. It was released by the highly inept staff at Necropolis Records, who folded several years ago.

Here's Deadbodieseverywhere perfoming "Sloth" at the November to Dismember festival in San Bernardino, CA, recorded in November 2000.

Byzantine - The Fundamental Component

The Fundamental Component

Have you ever bought an album for just one song? That’s how I ended up with “The Fundamental Component.” The song in question is “Hatfield” and I wish that all modern metalcore sounded like this. Of course, that would take talent, guts, and a resistance of the urge to shamelessly rip-off At The Gates.

This is not to say the rest of “The Fundamental Component” fails; it certainly doesn’t. It’s just that Byzantine is a band that takes risks. When you take risks, some of them work and some do not. One example would be vocalist OJ’s singing voice. It doesn’t work, but it takes courage to do it.

Byzantine plays progressive thrash similar to Pantera, Lamb of God, and Meshuggah. When I say “similar to”, I mean “exactly like.” I say progressive because both OJ and lead guitarist Tony are fantastic players and “The Fundamental Component” is filled with challenging arrangements. If you play guitar, you’ll dig this record.

This was the first Byzantine recording without a drum machine and drummer Wolfe sounds like he’s been playing with the band for years. According to Byzantine’s Website, Wolfe joined a few months prior to this album’s recording.

My chief complaint with “The Fundamental Component”, aside from those damn clean vocals, is their reliance on cheesy breakdowns. The world already has one Bleeding Through and loosing the breakdowns would give Byzantine more room to spread their creative wings. The exception is, of course, “Hatfield”, where Tony plays a killer lead on top of the breakdown.

I also admire Byzantine’s lyrical approach, which is rooted in their West Virginia home. They tackle a wide range of subjects, from pollution and strip mining to the legendary feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys.

Cheers to a band that’s doing something different, even if they’re doing it inside the confines of something lame.

Here's Byzantine playing "Hatfield", with Lamb of God's Randy Blythe on guest vocals, recorded live in Morgantown, West Virginia on 30 Oct 03: